Thursday, August 2, 2018

Living With My Books: A Bookseller’s Library

Reader:  Barbara Theroux
Location:  Missoula, Montana
Collection Size:  Averages 2,000.  It’s a fluid collection: books come in and are donated to grandchildren, the university, and the Missoula Public Library.
The one book I'd run back into a burning building to rescue:  It’s actually four books. Two books “created and bound” by my sons when they were in third grade and two journals created on trips to Disneyland in 1982 and The East Coast in 1984
Favorite book from childhood:  Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
Guilty pleasure book:  As a bookseller, there were several customers that would always request “airplane reading” those books that you can escape into on a flight, my suggestions were always mysteries. Guess I have Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie to thank for that reading tradition. Joe Pickett, Walt Longmire, Sean Stranahan, Erin Murphy, and Lola Wicks are current characters that give me pleasure.

I have been surrounded by books all my life. In the 1950s, Little Golden Books were the beginning of my personal library; my mother could buy these treasures at the grocery store. As a librarian she knew the importance of reading to children. Not only were books in our home, but I had my own books and bookshelf. Early books that I purchased with my own money at Woolworth’s were in the popular series titles featuring Donna Parker, Trixie Belden, and Nancy Drew.

Libraries were also an important part of my childhood, especially useful to explore topics of interest like ship disasters. One summer I went through the pages of history as I read about the Titanic, the Andrea Doria, and the Lusitania. With library books I did not have to clear room on my bookshelves, but I did have a special spot to keep them so that I did not forget to return them on time. I continued to work in and volunteer in school and public libraries all my life. Today I am president of Friends of Missoula Public Library and have served on many committees working on the new library.

In the late 1960s, my summer employer was Doubleday and Co. The publisher had a bindery and shipping center in my hometown of Hanover, Pennsylvania. This was the center of The Literary Guild and various other book clubs. Working on the assembly lines, gave me insight into how a book is made. It also gave me incentive to complete my college education. At least once a month, employees could purchase damaged books for twenty-five cents apiece. Many times I came home from work with a backseat full of current books.

I graduated with an education degree with a school library certification. This took me to a junior high school library in Pendleton, Oregon. From there I moved to Moscow, Idaho, and went to work in the public library. In 1971, I accepted a position as trade book buyer at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. Being a book buyer at two university stores and later a bookstore owner gave me an introduction to another side of the book business. One full of catalogs, advance reading copies and opportunities to meet authors (and add signed books to my personal library). The decades of bookselling greatly increased my personal library and started my sons’ libraries as well.

This bookshelf holds some of my favorite titles. There is even one Doubleday damaged book, Five Smooth Stones, among the advanced reading copies, signed copies and many Montana Book Award titles.

In addition to acquiring books throughout my life, I had to learn to downsize my collection. Over the years I have donated to various library book sales, the University of Montana President’s home library, established home libraries for my grandchildren, and added to Little Free Libraries at my apartment and across town. My bookshelves also display travel mementos, family photographs and other collections. I now life in a 750-square-foot double-loft apartment where my books surround me but still allow room to entertain friends, family and occasionally host a book club.

This built-in piece of furniture provides a good place to house some of my signed editions.

My travel bookcase not only contains travel guides and books from destinations, but a collection of photos and empty beverage containers from most of the countries I have visited. My travels have taken me to Romania, Hungary, Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Kenya. The Kenyan kiondo holds a collection of books by Kenyan authors and those which are set in Kenya. One of my sons was in the Peace Corps and spent three years teaching in Kenya where he met his wife. I have traveled to Kenya several times and love having family to visit there.

Now that I am retired from bookselling, I still purchase books and obtain advance reading copies for the next phase of my life with books, becoming a blogger. Book Bound with Barbara began one year ago and is evolving (which is a polite way to say I am still exploring how I want to talk about books).

My office (above) and reading corner (below) show stacks of books, some divided into month of publication or category such as young adult. It is an ever-changing landscape!

Barbara Theroux retired in 2017, giving her time to read the books she accumulated over the 45 years of bookselling. In 1986, she opened Fact & Fiction in downtown Missoula, giving her many years of book events, customers, authors and experiences in creative bill-paying. She still volunteers with the Montana Book Festival, Montana Book Award, and the Missoula Public Library but loves to travel especially to see her grandchildren. These days her opinions can be found at

My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email for more information.

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